BUYERS looking for a seven-seat Ford will have some tough choices to make with the introduction of this, the new C-MAX. Joining the Galaxy and S-MAX in the Ford line-up next this month is the replacement for the Blue Oval’s popular compact people carrier and it now comes in two body styles!
The spiritual successor to the outgoing model is the larger Grand C-MAX – this has seven seats, sliding rear doors and a range of new engines to tempt buyers. The smaller five-seat C-MAX is seen by the maker as a softer option to the new Focus which will be sportier than the outgoing car when it arrives in 2011.
For this test we focussed on the larger car which is set to account for two-thirds of C-MAX sales. Featuring the maker’s now famous kinetic design it boasts the signature Ford grille at the front, sweeping headlights and a new piano black finish to the plastics.
To be honest, it’s not the prettiest of cars in this sector – which includes the VW Touran and Vauxhall Zafira – but it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Here it’s well appointed and designed with real thought. The button layout has taken cues from mobile phones, separating functions from the centre console and adding them to the steering wheel for intuitive inputs.
Inside it also has the look of the new Fiesta and Ka with a swooping centre console, smart steering wheel and high quality materials. Buyers in this segment demand practicality – Ford sees the C-MAX being bought mostly by families – so the sliding rear doors which offer easy access to the cabin will be a real boon.
The rear seat configuration is also flexible with the centre seat of the middle bench folding away into the chair behind the driver. This is very easy to do and creates a walkway to the two rear seats. Those rearmost perches are only really for children as there’s little legroom, but for emergency seven-up trips they’ll do just fine.
Potential buyers will be pleased to hear that just because they’re buying a family car it doesn’t mean driving gets dull. The C-MAX really is great to drive – the new electric power steering is full of feel and perfectly weighted and the new six-speed gearbox is far better than the outgoing unit with a pleasant, knotchy throw.
For a people carrier – even a compact one – it handles brilliantly, with little body-roll in the bends. But the real gem is the new 1.6-litre petrol EcoBoost powerplant. It produces 150bhp and 240Nm of torque which is spread throughout the rev range making the C-MAX extremely responsive.
Other options for under the bonnet include two lower powered 1.6-litre petrol units and two TDCI diesels – a 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre – both of which are excellent.
Standard kit has also been improved over the outgoing model with a host of handy extras thrown in. On the most popular trim level – Zetec – buyers get those sliding rear doors, Bluetooth handsfree, voice control, a handy powered rear hatch, alarm and parking sensors.
There’s more good news for potential owners too – residual values are better than the outgoing car, insurance ratings are lower and the cost of the cars have been cut in comparison to the old ones. The C-MAX range starts at £16,745 and the Grand C-MAX at £18,745. We were really impressed with the C-MAX – packed with kit, comfortable and enjoyable to drive it’s the perfect car for expanding families.